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Embodying Attitude: Teaching entrepreneurial mindset in higher education

What does a five-star attitude look like? We recognize it in the service at five-star hotels and in upmarket airline carriers. It is a certain alertness in the gaze, a controlled elegance in movement and a perfect posture.


Kiviaho-Kallio Pia

lehtori, kielet ja kansainvälisyys
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 16.03.2020

Attitude is about being alert and open for opportunities. It is about being fully awake with all your senses.


I have spent the past two decades in developing an embodied pedagogy with focus on exploring methods for teaching an entrepreneurial mindset through embodied awareness. Having taught Classical Ballet for twelve years before entering a teaching career at Haaga-Helia, I was ill prepared for the lack of embodied awareness in traditional university pedagogy. Yet, many successful business people have a background in sports: I have a particular photography in my mind of young Arnold Schwarzenegger in ballet class. Supposedly, Schwarzenegger took ballet classes to broaden his understanding of the aesthetics of body in space. At times, I have even suggested Ballet as a compulsory class at a business school. Why?

“We are essentially and fundamentally animate beings. In more specifically dynamic terms, we are animate forms who are alive to and in the world, and who, in being alive to and in the world make sense of it. We do so most fundamentally through movement.”

 – Sheets-Johnstone, M. (2011)

Essentially, an entrepreneur needs to possess stamina, courage and the ability to catch the opportunity. He/she needs to be fully and three-dimensionally present in the world. As pedagogues, we are often referring to the right attitude in our students; some manifest this strongly at the very beginning of their studies, while others need to work hard on improving their attitude into a more professional direction. With my background in dance, I perceive attitude as something physical – an ability to react quickly and with the appropriate amount of energy in different situations. Notably, the etymology of the word attitude supports this view. Today the term is associated with a mental attribute, which historically goes back to the Italian art term, Attitudine, signifying the pose a sculpture takes. Finally, also one of the most difficult and beautiful poses in Classical Ballet is called Attitude.